@ Saenger Theatre
November 8, 2018
This was my first time visiting the Saenger Theatre in Pensacola, Florida. Every concert I’ve been to in Pensacola has always been at the Bay Center. It’s a beautiful little venue that opened in 1925 and they often host musicals and plays. Now that I’m aware of, and enjoyed, the Saenger experience I’ll definitely be on the look out for more shows at this venue.
Saenger has about 1,600 seats but the venue wasn’t even half-full for this show, unfortunately. I had balcony seats and was one of the first people to enter the balcony and was told by the ushers that I could move up to the front row of the balcony. I ended up having to move to the third row because the actual ticket holder of my seat showed up (45 minutes into the set!) but, hey, I got to upgrade my seat for free regardless! And the crowd that was here was very energetic and appreciate of Ace.
The show itself was great, if a little short. No opening act and the band played for only about 90 minutes. I was little disappointed with that. I didn’t expect Ace to play a full three hours but he could’ve easily pulled off a two-hour show if he had pulled songs from his Frehley’s Comet days in the 1980’s (I was hoping to hear “Rock Soldiers”, “Into the Night” and his version of “Hide Your Heart”) and Anomaly or Space Invader. Instead, the set focused on early Ace-signature (or Ace-penned) KISS tunes and songs from his 1978 solo album. Only one track (“Rocking With The Boys”) made it from Spaceman, his latest album.
And it all sounded so good live! The songs were very heavy and energetic, especially coming from Ace’s backing band. Apparently there was some drama regarding these guys because Ace dropped the backing band he’d been using for years in order to use these guys who had also played as Gene Simmons’ backing band on Simmons’ recent solo tour to promote his Vault solo box set. I’m sure Gene is getting a cut or taking some type of finder’s fee for putting Ace with these guys!
But they were all great players and singers. Drummer Matt Star did a great job handling lead vocals on “Love Gun” and did guitarist Jeremy Asbrock on “Strange Ways”. I’m not
Ace was his usual quirky, charming self between songs. In typical Ace fashion, he almost tripped over a stage monitor while doing his solo. Later, he forgot how his solo for “Detroit Rock City” and the band was in a holding pattern for about 10 seconds or so until it finally clicked in his brain. Honestly, that just adds to Ace’s charm. He’s not perfect, he’s not all there, and that’s fun. I like seeing live mistakes like that. Maybe the guys on stage don’t, but I think flubs like that are a cool moment in time. Other than that, Ace himself sounded great vocally and on guitar.
Despite the show being a bit shorter than I would’ve liked, it is honestly one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. I’ve always been a fan of Ace, but hearing a lot of these songs have given me an even greater appreciation for his work. I’m a bigger fan of Ace leaving this concert than I was going in.
BTW — I knew Ryan Cook’s name sounded familiar. While doing research on the backing band I discovered he was in Hair of the Dog!
Ace Frehley – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Jeremy Asbrock – Guitar
Ryan Cook – Guitar
Phillip Shouse – Bass
Matt Starr – Drums
“Love Gun” (w/ Matt Starr on lead vocals)
“Save Your Love”
“Rocking With The Boys”
“Rip It Out”
“Strange Ways” (w/ Jeremy Asbrock on lead vocals)
“New York Groove”
Ace Frehley guitar solo
“Detroit Rock City” (everyone sharing vocals)
“Deuce” (everyone sharing vocals)